"Indianapolis," a hardcover history book which was ranked No. 5 on the New York Times Best Seller list a week ago, includes longtime Uniontown resident Jim Jarvis.
It focuses on The USS Indianapolis, which sunk in the early morning hours of July 30, 1945, just after completing a secret mission in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
More than 1,000 men were on the vessel when it was struck by two Japanese torpedoes, caught fire, and sank within minutes. Nearly 900 men made it into the water alive, but their struggle would continue for five nights while they awaited rescue. Jarvis, a Navy veteran, was one of only 316 men that survived.
At 15 minutes past midnight, Jarvis said he awoke to total silence in the airplane hanger. The ship had never been silent before and he knew something had gone very wrong.
Written by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, the long title is "Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man." Cracking open the cover, the pages reveal a complex story that doesn’t start and end with the sinking and subsequent rescue.
The story crosses decades and involves hundreds of people, including survivors, families of the survivors, families of the deceased and rescuers. The authors have gone to the wives and mothers who lost husbands and sons. They’ve delved into the impact the event has had on the survivors.
"It’s been known as a sinking tale, a shark attack tale, a disaster ... but these were teenagers who were serving on the flagship of the fleet," Vincent said. "They were at all the major battles. This was not just a tragic ship; this was a great historic ship and it was made great by the men that sailed it. We portray those men as the great men that they were. We don’t just encounter them momentarily just to later see them sink."
Jarvis met Vladic, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, at the Survivor’s Reunion in Indianapolis. They both frequented the event, although for very different reasons. After getting to know each other, Vladic finally sat down in 2012 to formally interview Jarvis the first time.
In a press statement, Vladic said she was inspired to write the book after interviewing survivors for several years.
"These Greatest Generation heroes were of a different time, when men did not complain about their circumstances. .. Nearing the ends of their lives, (some men) told me that they wanted the whole truth known before it was too late," Vladic said.
Vladic reached out to Vincent, who had coincidentally been dreaming of writing a military narrative.
"Some would call it luck and others providence, but after several conversations, Sara and I agreed to team up," said Vincent, a bestselling author and journalist.
Despite the rising popularity of the book, Jarvis said he enjoys his normal life most of the time. After getting out of the military, he moved to Uniontown in the 1950s to work for Goodyear Aerospace in the Canton area. He has since retired and sometimes spends his summers in Florida.
Born James Kenneth Jarvis, the veteran is a man of few words. He has seen his name in books before and now prefers to spend his time reading on topics of ancient history and the civil war. Jarvis said he did make an exception to read "Indianapolis" about a month ago and said he enjoyed it. He plans to read it again later this year.
The veteran also hopes to return to the reunion next year.
"I go to meet the people out there that remember it. It’s always really nice," he said.